This novel opens during the Cultural Revolution, with a young and fanatical Red Guard member, and those themes of ideology and sometimes misguided youThis novel opens during the Cultural Revolution, with a young and fanatical Red Guard member, and those themes of ideology and sometimes misguided youthful obsession permeate the novel that follows. There's also a continuing theme of a war on science that begins in those first pages which seems particularly relevant today.
But this isn't primarily a political work, it's hard science fiction, with a very novel premise and rigorously developed permutations driving the narrative, very much in the tradition of Arthur C Clarke. The narrative zooms along pretty well, and when it did slow down it already had me so hooked that wasn't an issue. The human characters are nicely developed, but as is often the case in the best science fiction, it's really the ideas presented that are to some extent more memorable than the characters.
As alien first contact stories go, this one ranks highly, and I look forward to reading the other two volumes of this trilogy when they come out in the next couple of years. Hopefully they'll sell well and even more of Cixin Liu's fiction will get translated into English....more
A thoroughly enjoyable thriller, diminished really only by an ending which is more standard and somewhat less interesting than the narrative which hasA thoroughly enjoyable thriller, diminished really only by an ending which is more standard and somewhat less interesting than the narrative which has come before. That still didn't stop me racing to finish it....more
The first Erickson I've read that I didn't really care for, although it's now probably been 20 years since I read Days Between Stations, Rubicon BeachThe first Erickson I've read that I didn't really care for, although it's now probably been 20 years since I read Days Between Stations, Rubicon Beach, and Tours of the Black Clock.
Pluses: An (expected) dreamlike narrative, that structurally does some lovely limited POV hopping throughout the middle, as the story segues from one character to another, following them and their stories. The narrative flows right along in this way.
Minuses: So much of the sex stuff feels very problematic now, rapish male fantasy. It all made one of the main characters so off-putting that it basically ruined the book for me. It's like Game of Thrones volumes of rape and sex thrust into a tiny literary novel. When the narrative returned to this character (The Occupant) toward the end I really grew frustrated.
I chose to reread this after Station Eleven brought it to mind, as another book where people behave decently in face of apocalypse (nuclear in this caI chose to reread this after Station Eleven brought it to mind, as another book where people behave decently in face of apocalypse (nuclear in this case). I first read this in fifth grade (because it had a sub!), and it probably contributed to some of my life long pessimism about the fate of the world.
This book has suffered somewhat from age. The interior POV's men's view of the female characters is wholly typical of the book's 1957 publication date. However, the astonishing first moment when Captain Towers plans gifts for his (dead) family nearly brought me to tears. However, as that trope of denial is repeated for other characters, it grew less effective.
But that very repression which runs throughout (of desire, of giving in to despair) still sort of fascinates me. When viewing this book as one of the first popular entertainments which introduced the idea of nuclear extinction to the population, it all makes much more sense. The idea here is still new, and nearly everyone remains in active conversation with the distant dead, as though the idea just is not comprehensible. If written today as an historical novel, I'd probably be praising the way these characters deny their fate as opposed to how we might react today, although even then the female characters remain weak, more objects of male fantasy than fully realized people. The strong character of Moira Davidson keeps threatening to break out of this restraint but unfortunately in the end still just ends up going along with what the men say. But even given the repetitive sameness of the characters' reactions, I still found the final scenes moving and disturbing.
The fact that this book started the conversation in the general population about the need to ban nuclear weapons gives it a profound historical importance that may no longer be evident when reading it now.
Of course Shute includes mention of other reactions to the coming extinction (fights, drunks in the gutter, etc.) but these are never our point of focus. The prose is clean and crisp throughout. It's still a compelling read, although the dated stereotypical women weaken reading it today.
Next up on the older, more humane apocalypse reread list will be Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart....more
One of my parents' favorite thrillers, which Mom had given me in paperback years ago. Like the other Perry I've read, this one is a breeze to read. LiOne of my parents' favorite thrillers, which Mom had given me in paperback years ago. Like the other Perry I've read, this one is a breeze to read. Like one of the Butcher Boy books I read, this too plays wonderfully on the ability of humans to misunderstand other's intentions and make woefully wrong decisions based on it. Anyone who knows L.A. traffic should particularly enjoy one of this book's action centerpieces....more
As a tale of post-flu dystopian collapse, I thought it had some general weakness in the thinking-through of how things would fall apart and some of thAs a tale of post-flu dystopian collapse, I thought it had some general weakness in the thinking-through of how things would fall apart and some of those more plot-driven elements that are typical of such stories. However, that was nearly unnoticeable given the overall beauty of the writing, the great character development, and the ingenuity of the book's structure. On those counts it shines above most other dystopian fiction. As a general meditation on loss and how we deal with it, I can't recommend it highly enough.
I read this book right after losing my mother, and it filled a need I can't quite put into words....more
My reading of this book was interrupted by grad school last fall, and when I picked it up again, I was struck by how odd it was I didn't finish it earMy reading of this book was interrupted by grad school last fall, and when I picked it up again, I was struck by how odd it was I didn't finish it earlier. I immediately fell right back into the terrific cadence of Henderson's writing. In both story and style, the writing reminds of perhaps a less opaque Cormac McCarthy or, even closer, Nelson Algren. Like Algren, Henderson infuses the narrative voice with the sort of broken poetry of the way these character express themselves, and the particular focus on a social worker and kids living on the streets or in the backwoods again brought Algren to mind, in the imperfect humanity he depicts so clearly in these disenfranchised people living on the margins of society....more
Grim, thrilling, moving, and terrifying. If I'd known this book dealt with another apocalypse scenario I probably wouldn't have started it. Luckily, IGrim, thrilling, moving, and terrifying. If I'd known this book dealt with another apocalypse scenario I probably wouldn't have started it. Luckily, I didn't know that -- I knew nothing about its plot and started it on a whim (and that Joss Whedon cover quote), and once I started it I found it nearly impossible to put down. It succeeds throughout -- as a thriller, an adventure story, and a meditation on ethics in a disaster. This is a book that, like World War Z (book, not movie) completely exceeds any expectation one might have had going into it. While I hear the film rights have been optioned, I can't help thinking that this book's ideal director has passed away, as the prose has the kind of clarity, detachment, and precision that remind me of none other than Kubrick.
Meh. A few promosing elements, but otherwise felt like a rip-off of World War Z, only without the well-realized characters and detailed differentiatioMeh. A few promosing elements, but otherwise felt like a rip-off of World War Z, only without the well-realized characters and detailed differentiation of global responses. ...more
Impossible to put down. A few chapters in, I was afraid this book would become a sadistic kind of torture porn, as it starts with a woman kidnapped, bImpossible to put down. A few chapters in, I was afraid this book would become a sadistic kind of torture porn, as it starts with a woman kidnapped, beaten, and caged in a box. But it avoids that pitfall with intelligence and unexpected plotting, and in the end the driving force of this book is not sadism but outrage. This thriller/mystery keeps surprising throughout, and I never knew where it was going. The only recent thriller I can recall that gripped this fiercely was Gone Girl. Highly recommended -- but trigger warning for violence and sexual violence.
It's also worth reading just to experience the breathtaking narrative flow of a writer using an amazing mix of third-person omniscient & limited in the present tense. I don't recall ever reading a book written in that style, and nowadays third-person omniscient with head-hopping within a scene always strikes me a clumsy out-of-vogue writing style. Lemaitre somehow mixes omniscient and at times limited perspective with so consistent a narrative voice that the prose flows effortlessly, and I skipped from one character's interior to another's without missing a beat. The effect was propulsive. ...more
This is a 3 star based on nostalgia goggles. There's a lot here to dislike if you're a modern reader reading it the first time. If that were the caseThis is a 3 star based on nostalgia goggles. There's a lot here to dislike if you're a modern reader reading it the first time. If that were the case I'd probably give it 1.5. This is old SF that doesn't hold up that well after you've read Iain M. Banks.
What I love about the book: 1) A spaceship trapped in increasing velocity and the time dilation that ensues. That's what amazed me when I first read it in 6th grade, and what brings me back to the book, and Anderson's ramjet scoops that trap stray molecules for fuel. The book goes so far out there with this premise that I keep coming back to it, even after 40 years.
What I hate: The sexual politics. The crew starts off like a Big Brother cast, trying to figure out who will hook up together. Odd that there seem to be no pre-existing married couples on what is essentially a colonizing mission. Throughout this book the women reward the men with sex for simply doing their jobs. If a man does his job, see, here's sex. Chapter after chapter ends this way. If he's feeling down, well, maybe the woman better leave the partner she likes better so she can sex the man and he'll get back to work. Really, this is where the book's 1970s writing dates really traps it. It's lost in the sexism of Mad Men mixed with 70s free sex and just adds an unnecessary Ick factor that, were I reading it for the first time today, would likely make me put it down.
So to enjoy it, I mostly have to ignore vast characters sections and focus on the plot, the science, and the occasional poetry of Anderson's prose.